When and Where to Plant Wildflowers can be planted as early in the spring as possible when ample rainfall is anticipated.
Sunny Wildflowers: plant in a site that receives full to partial sun (but not heavily shaded) and is well-drained.
Shady Wildflowers: plant in a site that receives 1-4 hours/day of filtered light to partial shade and is well-drained.
Preparing the Seedbed The main objective when preparing a seedbed is to provide good seed-to-soil contact and eliminate any undesirable plants or grasses. For best results, sod-forming grasses and weeds should be removed before seeding wildflowers. This can be accomplished two ways: chemical or tillage treatment.
Chemical: Roundup® or similar commercially available herbicides can be used to effectively kill existing grasses and weeds before seeding. Be sure to follow label directions when applying these products.*
Tillage: Repeated tillage will also control undesired plant growth. For heavy sod, this may take a season of repeated tilling. Care must be taken to eliminate sod-forming grasses, as they can return and easily out compete wildflower seedlings for soil moisture and nutrients.
Once unwanted vegetation is controlled, the seedbed should be firm and free of clumps. Rake seedbed to level soil and loosen to a depth of about 1 inch.
Seeding It is helpful to thoroughly mix a carrier such as masonry sand, perlite, potting soil, etc. with the wildflower seed to increase volume and aid in even distribution of the seed over the site. A suggested mixture in 4 parts carrier to 1 part seed. Broadcast 1/2 of your seed/carrier mixture as uniformly as possible over the planting site in one direction. Then, sow the remaining mixture in a direction perpendicular to the first sowing.
Press the seed into the soil by walking, rolling or lightly tamping with a rake. Seed should be not be covered with more than 1/4 inch of soil and some seed may be visible.
For best results, your planting should be kept moist for 4 to 6 weeks after seeding. If natural rainfall is inadequate, supplemental watering may be necessary. Light and frequent waterings should be applied to keep the ground moist.
Most varieties will germinate in 10 to 20 days. Once your wildflowers begin to germinate do not allow the site to completely dry out, but avoid over-watering the area as the seedlings could die from lack of oxygen supplied to the root system. After your seedlings are 1 to 2 inches in height, watering should be gradually reduced and applied only if the plants show signs of stress.
Maintenance It is generally not necessary to fertilize wildflowers if they are planted in a native habitat. In fact, fertilizing may produce excessive foliage at the expense of blooms.
As weeds appear, they should be pulled as soon as they can be identified. Mowing also can control some weeds, but the blade must be clear of the desired seedlings.
At the end of the growing season, wait until all the species have gone to seed to allow them to re-seed themselves. This may require patience on your part, since wildflowers tend to look unkept during their final stages. When you are sure they have all gone to seed, mow the site, setting your mower blade high, then make several additional passes as needed, with the mower blade lower each time. This will clean-up the site and help re-seed the flowers.
Patience is a Virtue In reconstructing a natural setting, it is important to remember that we cannot do in one year what took nature many years to create. The first year of your wildflowers may not create the visual picture you have in mind. Long-lasting perennials normally take more than one year to bloom. You will see more annual blooms the first year and more perennials after that. Helping the annuals re-seed each year, as noted above, will help these varieties provide additional blooms in subsequent years. Your patience will be rewarded with the beauty of many colored wildflowers that can be enjoyed for many years.
Washtenaw County Conservation District Copyright 2016